The last time the USC women’s swimming and diving team won a conference championship, most of the current swimmers’ and divers’ parents were still in high school. The year was 1985 — a year before the then-Pacific 10 began recognizing women’s athletics — when the Trojans swam their way to the Western Collegiate Athletic Association title.Just over three decades later, the Trojans are conference champions once again.Led by solid veteran leadership and explosive young talent, the No. 4 USC women’s swimming and diving team beat the odds to defeat Stanford, the nation’s top-ranked team; Cal, the defending conference and NCAA champions, as well as six other teams to capture the crown. A year after the men’s swimming and diving team won their first conference championship in 36 years, head coach Dave Salo understood the impact that the win had on not only this team but the entire Trojan family that they represent.“There is nothing better than making Trojan alumni and fans proud of their Trojans,” Salo said. “The drought of team championships is over for USC.”Historically, USC has boasted several outstanding individual swimmers but hasn’t been able to put together the team effort it takes to win a collective title. That script was flipped this year, as the Trojans — despite only winning three events — won the championship by over one hundred total points.USC, who finished third in the 2015 Pac-12 Championships, posted a total of 1481 points. They were followed by No. 1 Stanford, who scored 1344, and No. 6 California, with 1306. From there, the gaps between schools widened: Arizona came in fourth with 1125 points, and UCLA, Utah, Washington State, Arizona State and Oregon State all finished with fewer than 1000 total points.One of USC’s individual winners, junior swimmer Chelsea Chenault, was there when the Trojans fell short of their goal last season.“It’s just an awesome experience to be the first team to ever win the Pac-12 Championship for our school,” Chenault said. “We’ve just been so strong, we’ve been fighting on this whole year.”Chenault was the individual winner in the 500-yard freestyle on Thursday evening, and freshman Elizabeth Stinson went the distance on Saturday night to win the 1650-yard freestyle. They would be the only two Trojans to win their individual events.“Nothing is more satisfying than a team championship, especially when it was as balanced as this was,” Salo said. “No one star propelled this. It was everyone taking responsibility and making a contribution.”USC’s other team victory came in the 800-yard freestyle relay on the first night of the championships, when the quartet featuring freshmen Kirsten Vose and Allie Wooden, and juniors Anika Apostalon and Chenault obliterated the school record with a time of 6:55.17. Their finish in the 800 free was good for an NCAA “A” cut time and is currently the nation’s top time in the event this year.While the Trojans certainly deserve to celebrate after their first-ever Pac-12 conference title, they won’t have long to relax. The NCAA Championships begin in mid-March at Georgia Tech, and with the confidence the team has built up after winning the conference title, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them in position to compete for their first national championship since 1997.“The lesson learned throughout this championship was that when we put our mind to something we can get it done,” Salo said. “But at this point, winning the Pac-12 championship was one of those events that can transform a team not just for the immediate NCAA championship but for many championships we may face over the next several years.”With only ten graduating seniors on the roster of 34 swimmers and divers — including fifteen talented freshmen — this may not be the last time we see the Trojans at the top of their conference in the near future.
Paris, France | AFP | Patriotic fervour gripped Euro 2016 hosts France and Portugal on Friday with Antoine Griezmann and Cristiano Ronaldo cast as the rival superheros ahead of the tournament final.France saw a return to the feverish days of 1998 when Zinedine Zidane guided the country to a World Cup triumph. Portugal go into Sunday’s final seeking to erase their football nightmare of losing the Euro 2004 final on home ground to unheralded Greece.National celebrations broke out across France after Griezmann scored twice in a famous 2-0 win over Germany in Marseille on Thursday.A penalty awarded seconds before half-time caused turmoil in the German camp. Griezmann made no mistake with the spot kick and scored again in the second half to extend his lead as the tournament’s top scorer with six goals.It was France’s first victory over their rivals in a major tournament since 1958. There have been three heartbreak defeats in the World Cup since.Air horns and blue-red-white tricolor flags dominated the night-time streets after the win. Some 90,000 people watching the game on a giant screen under the Eiffel Tower erupted in joy.Riot police charged youths who caused trouble on the Champs Elysees avenue however.“There is a lot of fervour and a lot of joy and happiness,” said French coach Didier Deschamps. “This team has done everything possible to be loved and it makes me very proud.” ‘No doubt’ for PM Politicians sought to catch the wave of football popularity. “I never doubted France’s victory” in the semi-final, said Prime Minister Manuel Valls, adding that he was also “confident” for the final.After their image was tainted by player strikes at the 2010 World Cup and star striker Karim Benzema being implicated in a sextape blackmail, polls show the French nation overwhelmingly behind Deschamps’ team.Tens of thousands have also packed Lisbon squares to watch Portugal’s matches on giant screens. Much attention will be on superstar Ronaldo, who has won virtually everything as a club player but no trophy with his country.Portugal midfielder Joao Mario said Friday that his country’s 11 million people also believe their team will win.“Probabilities don’t win matches,” said the Sporting Lisbon star when asked about French hopes of a home win on Sunday.“They can believe that but 100 percent of the Portuguese people believe in a Portugal win,” he told a press conference.“Twelve years ago we were playing in Portugal and there was an incredible atmosphere across the country,” he said. Germany ‘bitter’France’s win was set up by a penalty in injury time of the first half that infuriated Germany, who had dominated the game.Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli spotted German captain Bastian Schweinsteiger handle the ball.Griezmann sent goalkeeper Manuel Neuer the wrong way with his spot kick.German coach Joachim Loew said he had to “calm the players down” in the dressing room at half-time because of the penalty.Germany renewed their control of the ball in the second half but Griezmann rattled them again with a 72nd minute goal. Neuer fumbled a cross and Griezmann fired the ball home through the goalkeeper’s legs.Deschamps said “we found it tough but we didn’t give up,” praising his players’ determination.“I’ve always believed in my players,” said Deschamps. “The ones I chose to form this squad have repaid me handsomely. This is their story, their victory.”Griezmann was particularly relieved to have scored the penalty, having missed one when Atletico Madrid played in the Champions League final against Ronaldo’s Real Madrid in May.“I wanted to take a penalty again in an important moment and I’m happy I did, and happy I scored,” he said.Germany felt the defeat was harsh.“We have played well at these European Championship finals, but we’re out. That’s very bitter,” said Neuer. “It’s not a fair result.”Loew refused to say whether he would extend his time as Germany’s manager beyond the campaign for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.Share on: WhatsApp Portugal lost the Euro 2004 final in Lisbon to Greece in one of the biggest upsets in the history of the tournament.“I hope this time we will be the winners,” said Joao Mario. “We believe in ourselves, we have always believed. The coach (Fernando Santos) has given us this confidence, this spirit.”
Serena Williams, of the United States, hugs the championship trophy after defeating Caroline Wozniacki, of Denmark, during the championship match of the 2014 U.S. Open tennis tournament, Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)NEW YORK (AP) — Serena Williams ended a difficult-for-her Grand Slam season in the best way possible, winning her third consecutive U.S. Open championship and 18th major title overall.And like each of her matches at Flushing Meadows the past two weeks, the final wasn’t close at all — a 6-3, 6-3 victory over good friend Caroline Wozniacki that lasted only 75 minutes Sunday.Williams equaled Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova with 18 Grand Slam singles titles, the fourth-most in history. Williams also matched Evert’s total of six championships at the U.S. Open and became the first woman to win three in a row since Evert’s four-title run from 1975-78.Not only did Williams, ranked and seeded No. 1, win all 14 sets she played in the tournament, she never even dropped more than three games in any of them.When the final ended, Williams dropped to her back behind the baseline, covering her hands with her face. Her first major trophy also came in New York, in 1999, when she was 17.“It is a pleasure for me to win my first Grand Slam here and then this No. 18,” Williams said, her voice choking. “So I’m really emotional. I couldn’t ask to do it at a better place.”Williams earned $4 million, a record in tennis — $3 million for the title, plus a $1 million bonus for having had the best results during the North American summer hard-court circuit. Evert and Navratilova joined her on court during the trophy and check ceremony.Williams also has won five titles apiece at Wimbledon and the Australian Open, plus two at the French Open. Only three players have more Slams to their credit: Margaret Court with 24, Steffi Graf with 22, and Helen Wills Moody with 19.Until the U.S. Open, though, Williams had not been at her best on her sport’s biggest stages in 2014. She lost in the fourth round at the Australian Open, the second round at the French Open, and the third round at Wimbledon, where a disoriented Williams also struggled through an odd appearance in doubles that was attributed to a viral illness.Back at the top of her game, Williams broke Wozniacki’s serve five times and compiled a hard-to-believe 29-4 edge in winners.“You really deserved it today. You played better than me,” the 24-year-old Wozniacki said. “You’re an unbelievable champion and you’re an inspiration to me, both on and off the court. You’re an unbelievable friend — and you definitely owe drinks later.”Remarkably, until a cross-court backhand on the run in the final game that Williams applauded, the only winners registered by the 10th-seeded Wozniacki came on a trio of aces.That was, in part, a result of the Dane’s iffy play in only her second Grand Slam final — she lost to Kim Clijsters at the 2009 U.S. Open — but mainly due to Williams’ relentless pursuit of every ball.A few weeks shy of her 33rd birthday, making the American the oldest major champion since Navratilova was 33 at Wimbledon in 1990, Williams powered this way and that in her black-and-pink hightops. Wozniacki is the one training for the New York City Marathon, but she was tuckered out by the end.Wozniacki may as well have been an extra in this Williams highlight reel. Points were directed by Williams, via serves that reached 120 mph (194 kph), forceful returns that backed Wozniacki into a corner when not producing outright winners, unreachable groundstrokes or the occasional volley.Yes, this was all about Williams. At times, it felt as if Wozniacki were there because, well, someone needed to be on the opposite side of the net.They’ve been pals for years, and they hung out together in Miami — heading to the beach, watching an NBA playoff game — after both lost early at the French Open in May. Wozniacki says Williams helped her get over the end of her engagement to golf star Rory McIlroy.“We text almost every day. She’s such a great person, a nice friend,” Williams said, before turning to address Wozniacki.“I know you’re going to be winning very, very soon, maybe even Australia,” Williams said, referring to the next major tournament, in January, “so I got to go home and get fit again so I can be ready for you there.”The friendship between Williams and Wozniacki did not matter one bit, of course, while they played with so much at stake as early evening shadows moved across Arthur Ashe Stadium.As Williams put it beforehand, referring to her older sister, “If I can play Venus, I can play anybody.”Sure looked that way Sunday.___Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich